Theorizing Food Sovereignty: An analysis of public and academic discourse
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Winsauer, Emily A.
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Food is at the nexus of a truly striking range of the global political, environmental, economic and human rights issues we face today, from climate change and water scarcity to poverty and economic stability. The consolidation of each step of food production in the hands of just a few companies has siphoned value and wealth from rural areas, edging out small producers and forcing farmers to becoming a part of the corporate production system. The food sovereignty movement has become one of the most outspoken critics of the globalization of the neoliberal industrial model of agriculture. The development of the global food sovereignty movement over the last two decades constitutes a significant political and social response to the inequalities present in and perpetuated by global food production and distribution systems. Recognizing the growing influence of the food sovereignty movement, this project posits that the movement may be seen as a modern expression of centuries-old debates about political and legal sovereignty. Thus, I attempt to analyze the theorization of the food sovereignty movement in relation to the historical evolution of the concept of sovereignty, and to anticipate what implications the present-day dialogue about sovereignty may have for the ongoing theorization of food sovereignty. A brief overview of the origins and historical development of the political and legal concept of sovereignty provides background for the development of food sovereignty and the political landscape into to which it emerged. Next, an analysis of the public and academic discourse on food sovereignty attempts to discern the “theorization” of the concept through the words and actions of food sovereignty movements, drawing as well on the body of academic work on food sovereignty and the use of the concept in policy and governance. By examining the movement’s self-conception, the political claims and justifications presented, the values system, organizational practices and structures, and forms of social and political action, the way in which the food sovereignty movements of the world have crafted a theory of food sovereignty begins to materialize. This working theory of food sovereignty is then framed in relation to other recent developments within the scholarship and practice of sovereignty, particularly studies of the fragmentation of governance and the international legal concept of permanent sovereignty over natural resources.